Biden and China’s Xi expected to speak in weeks ahead, US’ Blinken says

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the United States expects President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will have the opportunity to speak in the weeks ahead.

However, when asked at a news conference in Thailand if Biden and Xi might hold a first face-to-face meeting as leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali in November, Blinken said he could not say what might happen then.

He said he also could not say who the United States would be sending to the APEC summit in Thailand the same month.

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“With regard to President Xi and President Biden, our expectation is that they will have an opportunity to speak in the weeks ahead, and I can’t talk to what may happen in the fall,” Blinken said in response to a question.

The United States calls China its main strategic rival and says high-level engagement is important to keeping the difficult relationship with Beijing stable and preventing it from veering inadvertently into conflict.

In answer to a separate question, Blinken said: “While we very much look forward to participating in the APEC summit... I can’t speak yet to who will be participating, but the United States will very much be present.”

Blinken spoke a day after a meeting of more than five hours with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the Indonesian island of Bali, where he went for a gathering of G20 foreign ministers.

Both Blinken and Wang described Saturday’s talks - their first in-person discussions since October - as “candid” while Chinese media said Wang told Blinken the direction of US-China relations was in danger of being further led “astray” due to a problem with the US perceptions.

Blinken expressed concern after the talks about China’s “alignment” with Russia and was directly critical of Xi’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In late June, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden and Xi were expected to speak again in the next few weeks and US officials were expected in the meeting with Wang to try to firm that up and explore the possibility of a face-to- face meeting, perhaps on the sidelines of the G20 summit in November.

A Thai foreign ministry spokesman told reporters on Friday that Wang Yi told his Thai counterpart during a visit to Thailand on Tuesday that Xi, who has not left China during the COVID-19 pandemic, would attend the APEC summit if he has no other obligations.

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